Akpan Umoh, Uyo
The Institute of Agricultural Research and Training (IAR&T) in collaboration with the Nigerian Institute for Oil Palm Research (NIFOR) with the support of OCP Africa has introduced special blended fertiliser for oil palm farmers in Akwa Ibom State.
The Project Coordinator Project, Dr Vincent Aduramigba-Modupe, disclosed this during the farmers’ field day on the oil palm speciality fertiliser validation project at Offitel Oil Palm farm in Mbak Atai in Itu LGA on Monday.
Aduramigba-Modupe, who is a soil scientist with IAR&T said the fertiliser was blended by OCP Africa strictly for oil palm to improve yields and increased productivity for the benefit of farmers.
He said the blend was developed under the soil survey, and soil fertility mapping for the oil palm special fertiliser development project under the management of the IAR&T and NIFOR.
He said the project started in 2021 in the Southern States where oil palm is being grown, except in Bayelsa and Ebonyi due to security challenges.
He explained that soil samples and tissue of oil palm were taken and analysed to come out with speciality fertiliser for the South South, South East and the national recommendation.
He added that the validation project was to ascertain the difference between oil palms in that the fertiliser was applied and those without fertiliser application.
“This project is under the auspices of the Nigerian Institute for Oil Palm Research (NIFOR) and Institute of Agricultural Research & Training (IAR&T) and OCP Africa is the donor, funding the project.
“The project is actually a four-year project which started in 2020, we needed to know the constraints of the farmers, so we went to all Southern States where oil palm is grown, except Bayelsa and Ebonyi due to security reasons
“After that, we took soil samples and tissue from the palm produce and we analysed what is wrong with the soil.
“So, as a result of that, we were able to come up with three speciality fertilisers, which we formulated, so we have the one for the South West alone, we have the one for the South-South and South East, then we have the national recommendation
“The difference between this fertiliser is that there is the presence of micronutrients and macronutrients. They are specially blended for oil palm, you cannot use them for maize, cocoa, yam and cassava, strictly for oil palm.
“The fertiliser was formulated and blended, due to budgetary constraints we choose 30 locations. We actually have three locations in Akwa Ibom State, we have in Abak, Ibiono Ibom and Itam in Itu LGA.
“We started revalidation in 2021 and this is the second year. So, what we are doing now is to come and look for concepts, to look at what are the responses, that is what you saw in the field today.
“You saw the three treatments, the absolute control, no fertiliser, the zonal recommendation and national recommendation. You’ve seen the responses, the farmers have seen it and the difference is massive,” he said.
The project coordinator added that speciality blend fertiliser would increase yields of oil palm and improve farmers’ livelihoods.
In his remarks, Dr Frank Ekhator, NIFOR Agronomist enjoined farmers and all stakeholders in the industry to make use of the fertiliser as it would impact their livelihoods and increase their economic status.
Ekhator added that with the introduction of the speciality blend fertiliser for oil palm farmers the country’s fortune might change in the next three years from being an importer of palm oil to exporter.
“OCP Africa funded the fertiliser project which was in collaborative research between NIFOR and IAR&T and the project was successful and the fertiliser was formulated and validated, now the fertiliser is ready for the farmers to use.
“So, I enjoined all stakeholders in the industry to use the fertiliser because at the end of the day is going to impact their livelihoods and their economic status will be improved and largely, the economy of the nation would also be increased,” Ekhator said.
He appealed to farmers to stop buying all kinds of seedlings to avoid low yields and patronise oil palm seedlings from NIFOR for improved yields.
Mr Odunayo Orowumi, the representative of OCP Africa, a fertiliser blending company, said that the company sponsored the research development of the special fertiliser.
Orowumi, the OCP Africa’s Project Agronomist said OCP decided to go into the project due to challenges that have been raised pertaining to the production of oil palm in Nigeria.
He said that the introduction of a special blend is to do away with generic fertiliser application, where you apply NPK 15:15:15 to all crops, adding that every crop now has its own specific fertiliser.
“OCP Àfrica took it upon itself to do soil analysis in various locations where oil palm is being grown across the country and this was done across 17 states and we have about 30 trial plots across these 17 states,” Orowumi said.
In his remarks, Mr Umar Isa, Director of the Farm Input Support Service Department, Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development commended OCP Africa for investing in the development of soil and crop-specific fertiliser formulations which support precision farming through products adapted to local soil crops.
Responding on behalf of the farmers, Mr Offiong Okpongkpong, said oil palm that the special blend fertiliser was applied yielded more fruits than the ones not applied.
Okpongkpong, who is the owner of Offitel Oil Palm farm appealed to OCP Africa to establish a depot in Akwa Ibom where farmers can easily access the fertiliser.
The representatives of the Fertilisers Producers and Suppliers Association of Nigeria (FEPSAN) and the Oil Palm Growers Association of Nigeria (OPGAN), were also present at the validation event.